Christian Bueger


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Maritime Domain Awareness in Action: Visiting the UK’s NMIC

NMIC logoContinuing my tour to centres which share and fuse information in order to enhance maritime security, two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the UK’s National Maritime Information Centre, in short: NMIC. The center is located near Portsmouth, a place it moved to last year in September, having been based prior within the Royal Navy’s headquarters in Northwood. The centre itself was created in 2011 in the run up to the London Olympics. Initial it was meant to facilitate the protection of the UK against threats from the sea during the event. The core idea behind the centre is hence that the rapid response to emergencies at sea is enhanced through a shared information infrastructure. Yet, the work of the center was soon extended to focus on improving the information available for regular law enforcement in ports, coastlines and the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. All of the ten ministries and agencies of the UK that deal with the sea are participating in the centre whose role is to facilitate conversations and joint actions among these.
NMIC started as an institutional experiment. Yet, its work was institutionalised with the conclusion of the UK’s first ever National Maritime Security Strategy (NMSS) in 2014. The NMSS provides an overarching framework for maritime security in that it identifies a range of maritime security risks, sets out the institutional architecture to respond to these. It also outlines four core tasks the architecture has to perform: understanding, influencing, preventing, protecting, and responding (UK 2014: 11-12). As the director of NMIC explained the centre primarily contributes to the task of understanding by collecting and sharing information, but also providing a space for the joint interpretation of what happens at sea. The centre however also works closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office a collaboration which intends to contribute to the task of influencing. If this wasn’t foregrounded by the director, the center also contributes to prevention, which according to the NMSS implies the sharing of information with international partners (NMSS 2014: 11).

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Regional Information Sharing III: A visit to the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Center

JpegYesterday, I visited the Piracy Reporting Center (PRC) of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) at its office in Kuala Lumpur. The IMB works on piracy since its installment in the 1980s, and the PRC is the oldest piracy information sharing center installed as a 24 hours operational center in 1991. From the visit to PRC it became clear how much emphasis this center puts on problemsolving and organizing rapid pragmatic responses by being the first point of contact of the shipping community and getting law enforcement agencies to act. The fact that it is set up as a  non-governmental organization has clear benefits, since the PRC can put different pressure on states, e.g. through the media, then governmental centers can do. As a body, which aims at assisting the shipping industry and seafarers primarily, the IMB, is the Red Cross of the Oceans if it comes to piracy.

The visit completed my tour through the regions information sharing centers. I am currently completing a draft paper on the basis of the results which I will present at the Center of International Law of NUS on the 22nd of April. The paper argues to understand the three centers as a functional system in which each performs a different role. I also ask what the lessons from this system for other regions, in particular the Western Indian Ocean are.


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Regional information sharing II: A visit to the ReCAAP ISC

JpegFollowing my recent visit to the IFC, this week I also had the pleasure to visit the second of the “big three” Information Sharing and Reporting Centres of South East Asia: the Information Sharing Centre of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery (ReCAAP ISC). The ISC was launched in November 2006, and is hence the second oldest centre devoted to piracy (after the Piracy Reporting Centre of the International Maritime Board, IMB PRC). The basis of the centre is a formal multi-lateral (government-to-government) agreement finalized in November 2004 which came into force in 2006. In comparison to IFC, it is hence a more formalized and institutionalized form of cooperation which includes a governing council which steers the work of the ISC. ReCAAP has become a major role model for agreements in other areas, including the 2010 Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC) in the Western Indian Ocean and the more recent Yaounde Code of Conduct (YCoC) operating in the Gulf of Guinea. ReCAAP has 19 “Contracting Parties” which includes the East Asian literals, but also a range of European states (Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, UK) and Australia, Japan and the US. Continue reading


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Improving Information Sharing: The Mombasa ISC

DSC_0700The Mombasa Information Sharing Center is one of the three centers established by the Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC). DCoC is a regional agreement which intends to improve the collaboration between regional states through information sharing and shared training activities. DCoC is important since it is a counter-piracy project that has a strong emphasis on regional integration. Maritime crimes are transnational and preventive strategies, hence, imply to work together across borders. Moreover, one can expect that there might be a spillover and the experience of collaborating in DCoC might spur cross-border cooperation in other areas. Then agreements such as DCoC might be the seed corns of maritime security communities.

Today I visited the ISC. The center is run by Kenya Maritime Authority and situated in the building of the Port Authority within the port of Mombasa. The center also hosts the Regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (RMRCC) in charge for search and rescue operations in Kenya, Tanzania, Seychelles and Somalia. Two staff are permanently on duty, and all recent technology including high speed internet access, the Mercury platform and systems such as Ocean View are available. The staff members explained to me their everyday tasks, consisting of routine emails, VoIP calls to the national focal points and other ISC’s, and reporting. They also described the training they had received and how they handle situations when they receive a distress call. The mundane work of the center is important. If, however, the communication they engage in is a sea change in international cooperation under the absence of actual piracy threats, will highly depend on whether countries now draw on this opportunity and not only pass information to each other, but also start operating together and learning from each other.